The Greek Philosophers Top Ten Booklist

Anaximander - a prominent pre-socratic philosopher

Ancient Greek Philosophers living from the 6th century BCE until the demise of Plato's famed academy in 529 CE has a profound influence on Western though. What is amazing is how their influence was able to survive and influence societies even during a time of great religious and social transformations.

Understanding why such philosophies had great impact is not easy but there are a good number of books that help make sense of how the philosophers developed their ideas, competed with each other and for students, and created institutions that we still try to replicate, to some extent, today. The following lists the top ten books on the ancient Greek philosophers. As usual, there is no particular order but the books are recent and have helped scholars and others to understand this key time in history and its transformative effects.

Top Ten Books

Blackson, Thomas A. 2011. Ancient Greek Philosophy from the Presocratics to the Hellenistic Philosophers. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.

If you want a modern book an overview of this great age of Greek philosophers, then this is your book. It begins with Presocratics, arguably the first great wave of thinker who to the foundation of inquiry and what becomes scientific thinking, and ends with the final destruction of the Academy.

Tom Blackson also has a syllabus and text links to the Perseus Digital Library available at his website. Here are the links: syllabus and notes. They are a perfect supplement for his book.

Cohen, S. Marc, Patricia Curd, and C. D. C. Reeve, eds. 2011. Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy: From Thales to Aristotle. 4th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub.

This work is considered the standard introductory book on Greek philosophers. If you want to know how the philosophers developed and some of the keys ideas, including Plato and Aristotle, then this book explains a lot of this story and how the philosophers developed their schools in a time of great change in Greece.

Ancient Greek Philosophy

Russell, Bertrand. 1996. History of Western Philosophy. Reprinted. Routledge Classics. London: Routledge.

This is perhaps the best selling book on Western and Greek philosophy in the 20th century. It was reprinted time and time again. It helps to explain, using clear description, how Western philosophy developed, particularly influenced by the Greek philosophers.

Roochnik, David. 2004. Retrieving the Ancients: An Introduction to Greek Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

A good introduction into Greek philosophy and its development. The book is not highly detailed but focuses on explaining the key ideas and knowledge developed by the philosophers of Greece.

Miller, Patrick L. 2011. Becoming God: Pure Reason in Early Greek Philosophy. London ; New York: Continuum.

The Greek philosophers treated God or the gods very differently. While Aristotle did not see their importance, others, like Plato, saw the central role of religion and the gods in our lives. This book is key to understanding these various ideas when it came to religion.

Sharif Khan, Mohammad, and Mohammad Anwar Saleem. 1994. Muslim Philosophy and Philosophers . New Delhi, India: Ashish Pub. House.

Muslim philosophy and philosophers were critical to the survival of some of the early Greek philosophers, as they were avid learners and preservers of these older traditions. This work helps to explain that relationship and how Greek philosophy shaped early Muslim though and eventually was transmitted to Medieval Europe.

Sedley, D. N., ed. 2003. The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. This book provides a survey approach for some of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, covering Pythagoras, one of the early philosophers, to Cicero, one of the important Roman thinkers and theorists in the 1st century BCE.

Thales of Miletus

Graham, Daniel W., ed. 2010. The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

What is striking to those who study Greek Philosophy is how little of their works actually survived and often we have passed on testimonials rather than first handwriting to describe what the philosophies were. The Presocratics were the first set of important philosophers, and their fragmentary writings are very important to reconstructing their early thoughts. This work presents the key fragments.

Wright, M. R. 2010. Introducing Greek Philosophy . Berkeley: University of California Press.

For a more recent treatment of the Greek philosophers, Wright's book presents a nice easy read. This is a good contemporary book for those wanting to learn about Greek philosophy without getting confused by the complicated parts.

Soupios, Michael A., and Panos Mourdoukoutas. 2009. The Ten Golden Rules: Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on Living the Good Life. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Pub. Co., Inc.

This book exemplifies how modern living tries to use wisdom from Greek philosophy to build general rules of life. From Epicurus' concept of simple happiness to Aristotle's concepts of seeking knowledge, these ideas are melded to make them timeless.

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